First appeared in Gamba Zine Issue #4 “The Awakening”
little boy shakespeare chases his muse of fire about the filth. he knows nothing of the desires of adults nor the actions of animals but he wants her just the same. he wants to devour her. that’s it. he wants her in his mouth.
the filth splashes onto his pant legs and he’s sure to catch hell for it but he continues nonetheless. she flits in and out of his vision and he is sure that he is meant to catch her. the people he passes see nothing. they see a little boy gone out of his mind.
they end up alone in an alley way that is usually reserved for drunkards. little boy shakespeare puts his hand on her face the way his father does with strangers. she responds in kind and they become locked in an eternal kiss. she vanishes and he is left with a hollowness in his stomach, a feeling that he wouldn’t trade for the world, but a hollowness just the same.
little boy shakespeare grows into middle boy shakespeare into older boy shakespeare into a young man like any other. he has trouble getting laid. he writes poems to help his cause but they are not very good. he does not understand the games people play. he wants the truth or nothing at all and so more often than not he ends up alone, stymied by his own awareness and rejected by those who lack it. the alley reserved for drunkards beckons him. he resists but cannot help admiring the bottom rung’s lack of pretense. the rest of the world feels like a fiction.
he awakens with the dawn while the sky is still shrouded and practices his craft. the clouds are a bride’s veil. the clouds are a madman’s haircut. the clouds are the only thing he has to write about and there are only so many shapes they can take.
he allows himself one night in the alley and is fascinated by the process of poisoning one’s self. the world tilts and he treasures the new perspective. he returns and tilts again. he stays awake all hours and sleeps through the dawn.
he makes money as other men do. his employers do not call upon his gifts and he would not want them to. he would rather numb his hollowness than sell it for a common man’s dollar.
there are women. he does not understand it but they prefer him if he is silent. they devour him and in the mornings he finds parts of himself missing.
his hollowness will not be quieted and he takes up a pen. he has trouble finding the words and instead turns to the poison. he wishes he had never seen the muse of fire. he wishes he could trade his gifts for ignorance. everyone else seems so happy.
his head is flat on the desk when the muse of fire rises. he cranes his neck and lifts his eyes, watching her ascend the sky. he ventures outside and sees a little boy running. shakespeare pauses to watch the men and women shuffling about. there is no hunger in their eyes, there is no fire. the filth never touches their clothing.
the sunlight hits his face. he will never be one of them no matter how much he might wish it. he returns upstairs and the words do not come easily but he chases them just the same. the muse vanishes, he sleeps briefly, the muse reappears. his heart skips and he feels a part of something bigger than himself and the gravity of it steals the breath from his lungs. the ink cannot dry quick enough.
Copyright © Nathaniel Kressen.